Tag Archives: paleontology

Fossil Friday – ceratopsid illium

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Last week for Fossil Friday, I posted the sacrum of a ceratopsid, a large horned dinosaur related to Triceratops. The sacrum is a series of fused vertebrae to which the hip bones attach. Today, I want to show you one of those hip bones from the same ceratopsid individual.

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Fossil Friday – ceratopsian vertebra

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On January 25, I showed you a horned dinosaur vertebra that was still partially encased in its plaster field jacket. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Palm Leaf

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The fossilized bones of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals certainly hog the spotlight, and they are spectacular. But alongside the bones of giants such as Tyrannosaurus is a very different, much more abundant type of fossil: ancient plants. Paleobotany, the study of fossil plants, is a vital part of understanding Earth history. Fossil plants provide data on bygone environments, ecology, and climate.

This fossil is the impression of a 67-million-year-old palm leaf. It was found in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana by local fossil hunter Harley Garbani and donated to the Western Science Center by his wife, Mary. The living plant probably looked much like modern palm trees, and points to a much warmer climate in Montana during the Late Cretaceous Epoch than today. Next time you see a living palm tree swaying in the breeze, imagine a T. rex under it seeking shade from the midday sun.  

Post by Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald

Fossil Friday – Snake Vertebra

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In the opinion of this naturalist, snakes are among the most elegant animals ever to have evolved. The fossil record of extinct snakes was poorly known for a long time. However, recent discoveries have revealed that a diverse array of early snakes lived alongside the dinosaurs, as far back in time as the Middle Jurassic Epoch, over 165 million years ago. The earliest known snake is Eophis underwoodi, from the Middle Jurassic of England: http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms6996

Today’s Fossil Friday subject is a fossil snake in the Western Science Center’s collection. This is a vertebra of Coniophis precedens, a snake that lived during the Late Cretaceous Epoch, about 67 million years ago, alongside much bigger reptiles such as Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. This specimen was collected by the late Harley Garbani in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, and donated to the museum by his wife, Mary.

These early snakes were not venomous, but instead killed their prey by constriction like living pythons and boas. Another Late Cretaceous snake, Sanajeh indicus from India, seems to have habitually preyed upon hatchling long-necked sauropod dinosaurs. Three skeletons of this snake have been discovered associated with fossils of sauropod nests, eggs, and hatchlings: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1000322

Post by Curator Dr. Andrew McDonald